Christchurch and Banks Peninsula residents are being urged to act now to protect their properties from fire even though the risk is currently low.
Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) Integrated Risk Manager Darrin Woods says his thoughts are with Australian colleagues and affected communities at the moment, with bushfires raging in New South Wales and Queensland.
Locally, the grass is still green and recent rain has helped keep it that way, but he warns conditions can change quickly over the summer.
“Ignitions can still happen but fires are less likely to develop and spread due to the green grass. However, now is the time that people need to do some work to maintain their properties,” he says.
“They need to keep their lawns mowed, trim trees that are close to houses, clear vegetation from boundaries and sweep debris out of gutters so there’s nothing flammable in there if an ember, or a piece of fireworks, lands on the roof.
“Everybody should be doing this, not just people in rural areas or those who live near the Port Hills. We all have a duty of care to look after our properties, we can’t just rely on FENZ to do it for us.”
There are no FENZ-imposed fire restrictions in place in Christchurch at the moment but Mr Woods says if people are planning a burn-off they should be aware of both current weather conditions and what’s forecast for the next few days. They also need to consider any rules imposed by Environment Canterbury for their particular location.
Planned fires must be monitored and controlled and landowners need to be able to douse a fire if it spreads. They should make sure that fires are fully extinguished so they can’t re-ignite in the coming days or weeks.
Keeping access ways clear is also important to ensure firefighters can get into properties if needed.
Mr Woods says when the grass dries out around Christchurch the risk of a blaze will increase. “We’ve had a good dose of rain and there’s some more rain forecast but we’ve also experienced some strong winds at times and we can get fires under those conditions.
“FENZ is monitoring the situation and we will impose fire restrictions as required. We have the ability if we see a little peak in weather conditions that we can introduce a short total fire ban, similar to what happened in Central Otago recently.”
Anyone who sees smoke or fire should dial 111 immediately.